Sajid Javid refuses to rule out scrapping NHS Covid vaccine mandate as deadline looms

Sajid Javid has not ruled out scrapping the Covid vaccine mandate for NHS staff as the deadline looms for almost 80,000 medics to receive their first dose or be fired.

The Health Secretary was asked whether he was considering pushing the pause button on the policy – as revealed by i last weekend – during a visit to a pharmacy in west London on Thursday to thank vaccinators for their efforts during the jabs drive over the past few months.

Mr Javid had told MPs on the Health Committee this week that the mandate and other Covid-19 policies were being kept “under review”.

Asked about what that meant specifically, he said: “What it means that we’re just still very focused on making sure that everyone in the NHS or in the wider social care sector that is caught by this new legislation is coming forward to get vaccinated.

“What we’ve seen is since we announced the legislation, 100,000 more people in the NHS [have] come forward. It’s a fantastic result. We now have almost 19 out of 20 NHS workers vaccinated at least with their first jab. There’s around 70 to 80,000 that haven’t yet come forward, but more and more do every day.

“I would just say that it is the professional duty of every health care worker or social care worker to get vaccinated to not only protect themselves, but most of all to protect the people that they look after every day.”

Pressed if the words “under review” mean that the Government was considering scrapping the mandate, Mr Javid said: “We’re reflecting on it because we do have to accept that the virus has changed.

“It’s moved from Delta to Omicron – and I’ve been very open about that reflection – but it is still absolutely right that people that are working in the NHS, working in social care, carry out their professional duty, which is to do all that they can to put patient safety first, and that means getting vaccinated.”

When asked if he was also referring to the mandate for social care staff, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We keep all policies under review.”

Mr Javid has also previously said it is the “professional duty” of every health care worker and social care worker to get vaccinated, ahead of new rules that come into force for NHS staff in England from next week. Patient-facing NHS staff and frontline social care staff must have their first jabs by February 3 to make sure they have received two doses by April 1.

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New figures from NHS England show that 127,515 NHS and domiciliary care staff working in registered settings still have not had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

About one in 20 staff (5.1 per cent) at NHS trusts in England have still not had a first dose as of January 23 – the equivalent of 77,591 people, the latest figures show. This is likely to include some people who currently do not hold frontline jobs.

At a regional level, the proportion of NHSworkers who have not had a first dose varies from 3.3 per cent in South West England to 8.7 per cent in London.

For social care staff working in registered domiciliary care settings, the figures show that around one in eight (12.3 per cent) have not been recorded as having had a first dose. This equates to 49,924 people.

In some local authorities, as many as three in 10 staff have still not had their first vaccine dose – including the London boroughs of Lewisham and Barking and Dagenham, and North Somerset.

Some frontline staff will be exempt from getting a jab, while vaccination status may not be known for others. Two vaccine doses for care home workers in England have been mandatory as a condition of deployment since November.

Downing Street insisted the Government was still intending to make vaccination mandatory for NHS staff in England.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Yes. The Health Secretary was clear we obviously want more NHS staff to come forward. I believe well over 90 per cent of staff are vaccinated, which is to be welcomed, and we know more are getting vaccinated in recent weeks and in the coming days.”

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